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The annual meeting of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) in Calgary included an open debate on euthanasia and assisted suicide.

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Canada's Health Minister, Hon. Rona Ambrose, told reporters at the CMA meeting this week that the federal government isn't planning to re-open the debate on euthanasia.

Canada.com reported Ambrose to have said:

“All of us think about the issue because we have elderly grandparents and elderly parents, and it’s on the minds of many because Quebec has introduced their legislation,”

The Calgary Herald reported Ambrose as saying:

“This is an issue that is very emotional for a lot of people — not just regular Canadians, but also physicians,” she told reporters. 

“Parliament voted in 2010 to not change its position on this issue. At this time, we don’t have any intention of changing our position.”

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Retired Senator Sharon Carstairs, who was the key author of the senate reports on euthanasia, assisted suicide and palliative care told the CMA delegates:

Only 30 per cent of Canadians have access to palliative care in Canada. 

While some medical schools now spend up to 56 hours of training in palliative care, at least one medical school devotes “exactly zero,” Carstairs said. 

“All of your patients will ultimately die,” she told delegates. “You will make the determination in many, many cases as to how your patients will die. You have to stand up and you have to make quality, end-of-life care in this country the right of every single Canadian,” she said to applause.

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Euthanasia involves “knowingly and intentionally” performing an act — usually administering a lethal injection of barbiturates — with the sole intention of ending life.

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With physician-assisted suicide, the doctor provides a patient with the knowledge or means, or both, required to kill themselves.

In her speech to the CMA delegates Ambrose stated that:

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are committed to a strong, publicly funded health system. Federal spending on health will reach a record high of $30.3 billion this year, growing to more than $40 billion by the end of the decade.

Most of the doctors at the CMA meeting were opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide while demanding greater support for palliative care in Canada.

Reprinted with permssion from Alex Schadenberg

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